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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  March 31, 2017 6:30am-7:01am PDT

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good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with singer/sock writer michael bolton. the multi-grammy award winning joins us to talk about his 27th album called "songs of sin my" which pays tributes to songs from the most iconic moves. he will discuss miss move to comedy general use. the conversation with michael bolton coming up right now. ♪. the conversation with michael bolton coming up right now. ♪e. the conversation with michael bolton coming up right now. ♪n. the conversation with michael bolton coming up right now. ♪i. the conversation with michael bolton coming up right now. ♪u. the conversation with michael bolton coming up right now. ♪s. the conversation with michael bolton coming up right now. ♪ ♪
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and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. ♪ thank you. ♪ ♪ multiple grammy award winning mightal bolton sold over 65 million albums since hitting the music scene. latest is called "songs of cinema." however, over the past generation he has welcomed a new generation of fans thanks to his comedic ability. look at that comedic face. not me, him. thank you. before we start our conversation first a look at his comedic chops in the music video for jack sparrow made with the
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lonely island guys which has been viewed more than 160 million times on youtube. ♪ box of chocolates chairman and my name is forest gump chairman those i'm not the sharpest tool in the shed ♪ ♪ you can call me scar face ♪ mountains of cocaine >> we couldn't do this show without a huge group of interns. some of the local colleges and i organize willed a plan some years ago when i first started the show to make sure that local college students got a chance to intern on this tv program. >> right. >> we couldn't do it without all of these great interns. i say that because all of our interns know fru this stuff. >> yeah. >> not from your long-hair days. >> yeah. >> but i know you when you first broke out, but you got a new generation of fans around here because of this stuff. who knew?
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>> in is the gift that keeps on giving. jack sparrow. >> how did this stuff happen? >> the lonely island guys, who were doing that, creating viral videos for "saturday night live." >> right. >> asked for a meeting and we all met in los angeles, and my manager and i and the three of them, and it is so funny sitting across the table i felt like i knew all of them from their videos. >> sure. >> i said, look, i'm a huge fan, i want to do something with you guys, but the script you sent me, it is too disgusting for me to do. it is hilarious but not all of my fans will get what is funny about it. >> right. >> they started laughing. they said, we know, we could tweak it, clean it up a little bit. i said, can you please? i would love to work with you. so we really want too do this, and about seven months later i was in atlanta and i finally got a message from andy sandberg and i read it and i said, this one i can do. >> yeah. >> and they said, go to a studio, find a studio in atlanta. i did, and then to new york for two 14-hour days of shooting. we were pretty much laughing
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non-stop. >> i'm sure. >> said, all right, let's call it. and the most traumatic things, erin brokovitch, it is still traumatic for me to see myself dressed as her. i need a lot of therapy after that one. they had a really good feeling about it and i was tear field. when it aired on "saturday night live" i was at the studio and i found a dark corner by myself and i just tucked myself into it. >> yeah. >> and people started laughing at the right places and next thing i knew john mayer was telling me tomorrow you're going to see something you're not going to believe. >> i said what? he said, a whole new audience. i said, i hope you're right, and he was right. >> speaking of john mayer, i read a beautiful piece about him in last week's ""new york times"" sunday magazine, the sunday paper did a nice piece about him, about his resurgence. did a big piece about him as well.
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mayer is experiencing his own resurgence and i think i could use that word with you, in addition to the videos and the netflix special, fair to say michael bolton is experiencing a bit of resurgence or is it offensive? >> it is not offensive. i would say it is fair to safety you could use that. people are saying it, so that's probably what -- >> but do you own it, accept it? >> i do. in a way that you described where entire -- it is not just a generation, it is two or three generations have discovered me, and then they go on and look around at your music and come back and see this and share it. that is a kind of definitely resurgence is one word, you know. it is -- but it is also widened my brand basically, and the ability to do things from a kind of a different platform. >> yeah. >> which is having fun, which is what i've always loved, that i've always been kind of a joker behind the scenes. i think it is not only acceptable.
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we're really taking great advantage of, you know, the opportunities and developing television shows, and i was shortly after jack sparrow i was invited on "two and a half men" for multiple episodes and i thought it could be fun every day. you drive to your set, go to your trailer and the new funny pages are there, and the lines you asked if they could be addressed like ten times as good and everyone is in stitches. i look forward to that. so we're working on a couple of projects that could be a good place to sit down and have my own sitcom and connect the music, always keep the music near me. >> sure. >> and tour, you know, five or six months a year like i do. >> how have you -- speaking of the touring and the long distance runner that you have been in terms of maintaining a following -- >> i like that, a marathon. >> that's what you are, a marathon man. have you been doing it a long time and you protect -- >> yeah, that's why you do what you do. >> i'm not the first to say that, trust me. but you protect your instrument. you sound as good now as you did then. how have you done that?
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>> i got invited -- one of the most exciting things, a lolot o exciting things happen when you have mainstream success. a lot of doors open. joe dimaggio is in your dugout when you're doing great works, the white house calls my office and, you know, first couple of times you think it is a practical joke and you realize, oh, this is just mainstream success. >> sure. >> all of the doors open, now what do you want to do? which ones do you want to go through? i got invited to sing with luciano pavarotti in the late '90s, and i immediately started doing my homework and studying what we would sing together. i would listen to him and my eyes would well up, and i thought, this is a guy who has been doing the right work on his instrument. i have developed from seeing, you know, i was 15 years old doing chicago blues, and i got a husky, big voice but i didn't
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know i'm a tenor. i have never really studied use of the voice in the high c and above high c. so i went to work on my voice, and started singing along with pavarotti. as a kid, singing along with stevie wonder was a great way to exercise your voice and become a more flexible singer because he has the greatest control of his instrument. with pavarotti i was developing like a larger engine for the same vehicle basically, and i learned that the tenors, the successful ones have their throats wrapped, they're wearing scarves, multiple layers, they're drinking tea, they're religious about their voices. because when those guys get on stage, if they don't have a high c, the crowd turns on them. they're coming there for them, but the high c and the big pay-off notes, these people all know them, they know the music. so they're under a different kind of pressure and scrutiny. so they religion yulsusly prote their voice.
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so there's a lot of things i do, but eight hours of sleep is the single most important thing for the voice. >> i've heard that. but to hear you say that underscores how significant that really is. there's no substitute for that. whatever else you do, you cannot substitute for some sleep? >> no, eight hours. most of the people i know who are really singing, you know, for a couple of hours on stage know that. your chords are happy. they're just two muscles, your whole career revolves around them and the people driving to your show, who are holding those tickets, they're expecting something. >> yeah. i mentioned earlier these interns, these kids around here who love you now, have discovered you through these videos. you mentioned singing at 15. i was just amazed to go back in preparing for our conversation, to look at your journey. you really signed around 16 but you didn't really breakout until you were 34. you get signed at 16 but you don't break out until you're 34. what's the lesson from that for every day people? >> there are a few. >> yeah. >> but the one, because i was
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off by 18 years, i thought i might have made it when i was 16 and i was off by 18 years. >> just a little bit. >> but there's something funny about that and i share it with my audience and they laugh. i say, it wasn't funny back then, i assure you. but just that, saying it wasn't funny back then doesn't really sum it all up, because we were -- i was feeding and, you know, helping, you know, provide for a family of five. i had three young daughters and we didn't want them to know how tough things were, because eventually we got eviction notices because our rent -- my rent checks were bouncing. and we didn't have that term homelessness, we didn't have the homeless reference. but looking back, we were really close to being homeless quite a few times while i had been signed to some of the biggest labels in the world, while i had been signed as a song writer for publishing with some of the biggest publishing companies. in between record deals i didn't
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have -- i never had that huge hit until '87, until "that's what love is all about" came out. i had fortunately my song writing career took off, and that's the portion of the show i call "food is good." so good. you relate to that? >> i got you. i feel you. >> and then i hear the audience respond and i want to make sure they know i am not kidding, because that first hid, laura brannigan recorded "how am i supposed to live without you" and all of a sudden the publishers and song writerness that business were coming to me for the first time instead of me chasing the industry. i realized i could have a song writing career on the side, which is really important because it taught me how important the music is, the songs are for artists to have long, enduring careers. whether i recorded "georgia on my mind" and eventually got to sing it with ray two times, sang it to him once, which is so
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surreal. "when a man loves a woman," i got to sing with percy cross. i don't need to write everything myself. you know, someone says, listen to this classic, i think you could make it your own and just have a great time with it, i love doing that, and i learned that i can do that and i have permission to do that. but as song writing actually really delivered food and a shelter for my family. >> yeah. i want to talk in a moment about the fact that you don't have to write the song to sing it, given your new project "songs of cinema." since we are talking about song writing, i asked this question of other song writers, first comes to mind is william smokey robinson. they don't get much better than him. >> icon. >> they've all been on this program over the years, great song writers, but i'm curious from michael bolton's perspective. what makes a great song?
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>> wow. i never -- >> i was talking to carol sager a few weeks ago, what makes a great song. >> that's a good question because, you know, with any humility, you know, you happen upon it. you have to show up in the writer's room, whatever it is, if it is a piano in a tiny room, which is fine, too. you have to be present for when inspiration shows up, and then you have to be a student of song writing to write something that's going to be around for a long time. i think anybody can write a song, but smoky is a great example of someone who can write a song that's going to outlive all of us, and many, many songs. he's also one of the nicest artists and icons i have ever met in my life. i love him and his wife. >> sure. >> and we played golf together and it is great to have all of this history, but we're -- you know, when it comes to song
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writing, relating to people's lives and writing something that everybody has been touched about and everyone can relate to, no matter what genre it is, it has to be human. it has to -- it has to resonate in a way. we used to say, you know, you want that hook to just be, you know, embedded in people's memories, in their consciousness, so they find themselves singing the chorus suddenly. i don't know if there's a way to do -- you can't kind of chisel it like that, as much as when you happen upon it and you're creating it, to recognize it is a part of that, the answer to your question. being able to recognize a melody that is of -- i think kwinlsy jones when he heard a song that wasn't memorable he said, there's a $25 reward out for the hook. >> that's cute. i love it. >> so we take a basic cue from that. we have some other formula, you know, kind of in pop hit, pop
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song writing which is formula mentality, is don't blow us, get to the chorus. you know. >> don't bore us, get to the chorus. >> yeah. there's a lot of me andering in song writing sometimes. >> what's the difference, michael, in the feeling, the euphoria you get hearing someone else sing your song like laura brannigan versus hearing yourself, seeing yourself on the chart with a song that you wrote for yourself? >> different streams for the same river kind of. you know, you're grateful. it is really exciting hearing someone else record your song, especially when it is being performed on stations all over the country, thousands of stations and you're getting letters that, yes, we're now in cleveland and it is playing in dallas and the whole network of giant radio stations, especially after -- i think that's the great thing about it taking 18 years, is that you appreciate it deeply, in a way that you -- i think you wouldn't if you had success by going on a tv show
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and in the first year of your, you know, ascent you're a star. you have to almost come back to that place to appreciate it deeply enough i think. and there's a lot of great talent, i'm not taking away from any of that, as much as i don't know if it gives people time enough to develop as human beings when they have success too soon. i just didn't plan on it taking 18 years, i really didn't. >> 18 years, yeah. >> i did not. but there's something about hearing the song with another singer delivering it, where you're very moved that they got -- they heard the demo. i sing on all of the demos. that's the blueprint, and you just hope that the producer doesn't say, okay, it is a great song, now here is what we should do with it and take it somewhere else. that's every song writer's nightmare. every time i did a classic by one of my heroes, one of my, you know, beloved artists that showed us, you know, how to sing, the intimidation was always something natural and an
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honor to actually -- to accept, basically to accept the challenge to walk into this powerful moment of music and say, i love ray charles. he was probably the single most powerful fluence on me always a kid. i love this percy sledge classic and otis redding, this is all hallowed ground to me. and thankfully you get some sort of reinforcement with "dock of the bay" with the otis redding standard. there were people saying, you don't need to go there, i know you love the song, and couldn't understand what the hesitation was because as a kid we did everybody's great songs. that's what we did in clubs, in restaurants and bars and any place that would have us, right? i do "dock of the bay," it gets all kinds of radio and then it stops and there's like a layer of gate keepers saying, i don't know. i mean this is an otis redding standard and i'm going, yeah,
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yes, it is, and zel mau redding happens to be watching show time at the apollo and i'm invited on to do "dock of the bay," and she gives us this amazing kind of critique, amazing endorsement. she loved the performance and she knows her husband would have. all of the walls came down and i saw something crazy happen there and the song became a huge hit and i got to meet zelma and the family. it taught me never -- it taught me to be respectful and be okay with being intimidated, accept it as a challenge, but this song requires a type of intense embracing. you know, you love it, respect the fact that this amazing singer recorded it before and made it a classic, performed and delivered the defining version, and you're just bringing your own and it better be -- it better be good. >> tell me something about whatever you want to share about the business of the music
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business? and i ask that because you've made money for the stuff that you sing, you've made money for writing stuff for other people. i know from my research you own a few catalogues, so you ain't done bad, but tell me something about what you've learned about the business of this business over the years. >> you know, the left creative and write business are different kind of brain functions. i'm not sure which is which, but i think what happened was i became business savvy because it took me so long to make it. that's another factor, that fuelled me. i didn't want to go back to remembering how good food was when it finally arrived in my kitchen. i think i got the sense that if this is going to happen, if this is really potentially happening, it got to pint where i had so many dils appointments i didn't want to believe the next one when the record label said,
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you're on the radio, man. you're on 72 stations. i thought, we need to be on 500, don't we? and we didn't get there. so i had enough of those i wouldn't get my hopes up because i didn't want to get devastated, but when it finally started happening in '87, the label said to me in norway, they want you to fly over to norway, they're like insane about your record. they just want to get you over there, and they are sure they're going to have a big album there. i didn't know where norway was but i got on a plane and went there and did 18 or 19 interviews in one day. i didn't want to hear my own voice anymore after -- you know how that goes. >> yeah, i do. thank you for inviting me, but -- >> i'm doing all of the talking here. it is one after another after another and, sure enough, when i left the album went flying off the charts and was huge in norway. what did i learn? oh, if i do the work as an artist, if i do the work, the team will be obligated to come and show up and raise the bar
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themselves and show up for the album, and they did album after album. that happen in sweden and denmark and germany, et cetera. >> the flip side of handling your business is not taking yourself too seriously. i can't believe i'm saying this, but you and i have this in common. we both did that show "dancing with the stars" at one point. >> i'm sorry. >> yeah, so am i. i was about to say the same thing to you, but i just love the fact that here is a guy who doesn't take himself too sear yulsly as evidenced by your appearance on that show and these videos. there's something to that. no matter how big you get, that notion of never, ever taking yourself too seriously i think is helpful. >> that's been an interesting lesson for me, life lesson. because for some reason -- and i think when i look back at the early interviews people say, you know, you looked so serious all the time and i'm thinking, well, you know, you would be serious too if you were in this condition because i was so far out in the desert there was no way to go back.
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there was no plan b for me. i think that makes you take every moment maybe too seriously. where people want to see that human, relatable side of you and they want to know it is real and -- >> they're seeing it now. >> they are seeing it, and it is fun. >> i got two minutes left. we talked about everything but the new project. >> yeah. >> which i enjoyed, the new conversation. then there's this, "songs of cinema." tell me about this one. >> this concept came along. my manager suggested we look at this possibility and her name is christina klein. she knows a lot about song writing and she is a huge fan. she has been involved in publishing and song writing her entire career. here is a place where you are asking a song writer/artist to take a look at a body of work that is in our dna, that's beloved music from some of the biggest, most iconic films in history, and see if you can find a song in there you would love to sing. well, that was not a problem. now i'm starting to interest
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great all of the songs into our live show. so every once in a while you go to a show, you see a band or an artist that you loved. you know there are 24 hits, you know, if they're fortunate enough to have that, and then at some point during the show you're going to hear those words, so here is something from my new album and everybody goes, ohhhh! but we just heard seven hits in a row we were singing when we got married and what is this one now? everyone is respectful and you are rooting for the band. it is like, okay, kill us with this, murder us, and it is not going to have the power and depth most of the time a song will have after you have heard it hundreds of times, or even 20 times where you are singing with the melodies, and the next song they go into one of their greatest hits again. >> if they're smart. >> yeah. what have we learned?
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>> yeah. >> don't keep 'em out there too long. >> exact reply. >> you have to watch your audience and respectfully take their temperature, see how they're responding. if you lose them at all, why? fix it or pull that song out of the set. but i think this album, "songs of cinema" allows me to sing some of my favorite music, include abc version of "when a man loves a woman" from the movie "when a man loves a woman" in a way that i had to sit down and i had to make sure that version vocally was worthy to replace my version 20 years ago, more than 20 years ago. and i'm really happy with it. it is about as strong as i'm ever going to sing it i think. >> it made the cut. >> it made the cut. >> i guess it is okay. the new product from michael bolton is called "songs of cinema," and you can be one of the 165 million people downloading this video as well. michael, enjoyed having you on
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the program. >> my pleasure. >> come back and we'll do it again. >> my pleasure. >> that's outñr show.é@ good night from l.a. thanks for watching and as always keep the faith. ♪ ♪ for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for conversation with investigative journalist annie jacobsen and actress elizabeth marvel. that's next time. see you then. ♪ ♪
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♪ and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ ♪ -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com ♪
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steves: salzburg's cathedral, constructed in the early 1600s, was one of the first grand baroque buildings north of the alps. it's sunday morning. the 10:00 mass is famous for its music, and today it's mozart. enter the cathedral, and you're immersed in pure baroque grandeur. ♪ dona nobis ♪ ♪ nobis pacem ♪ since it was built in only about 15 years, the church boasts particularly harmonious art and architecture. in good baroque style, the art is symbolic, cohesive, and theatrical, creating a kind of festival procession that leads to the resurrected christ triumphing high above the altar. ♪ nobis ♪ ♪ dona nobis ♪ ♪ nobis pacem ♪ ♪ pacem ♪ music and the visual art complement each other. the organ loft fills the church with glorious sounds
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as mozart, 250 years after his birth, is still powering worship with his musical genius. ♪ nobis ♪ ♪ nobis pacem ♪ ♪ nobis ♪ ♪ pacem ♪
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